Moving to any country is a daunting yet exciting task, filled with new cultural customs, bureaucratic procedures and more and moving to Dubai from the USA is no different. At Bayut.com, we make finding a new home in the city easy, and today, this article will cover all the other bits and pieces you need to know before making the big decision of moving to UAE.
Visas for Americans moving to Dubai
If you’re an American citizen looking to scout out Dubai before moving to UAE, you’re in luck! American passport-holders are entitled to a visa-on-arrival at the airport, should their stay be shorter than 30 days. However, if you decide to take the plunge and move to Dubai longer term, you will need a residence visa. Keep in mind that your passport should be valid for a minimum of 6 months after the visa is issued:
- Work or Employment Visa: The most common type of visa issued in the UAE, by your sponsor company. The company sponsoring you will also take care of all arrangements relating to this type of visa.
- Dependent Visa: If you have a spouse or dependent children (under the age of 18), you can sponsor them to be in Dubai on your visa. You will need to be earning at least AED 4,000 a month (or AED 3,000 with accommodation). If your adult children are in Dubai, and you want them to sponsor your residence visa, they will need to earn a minimum of AED 20,000 per month.
- Student Visa: This visa is available to students who are registered at an educational institute or university in the UAE. The visa is valid during the period in which you are studying in the UAE.
- Investor Visa: If you’re an entrepreneur looking to start your own business in Dubai (or are planning on investing in one), you can be in the country on an Investor visa, usually valid for three years. You can apply through one of Dubai’s many free trade zones.
- Property Owner Visa: If you own property in Dubai, you can apply for a renewable residence visa – checking first with the developer as to what the dependent benefits of the visa are.
No matter what type of visa you opt for, you will need to have a medical (usually consisting of an X-ray and blood test) before the visa is issued.
How to move to Dubai: Required Documents for Moving to Dubai from USA
When you come to Dubai for employment, the company that sponsors you will take care of most of the paperwork and procedures – however, you will have to ensure that all your paperwork is in order.
- In order to process an employment visa, you will likely have to present your original and attested degree/educational certificate. While you can get this done via a service once you get to Dubai, it will be far easier and cost-effective to do so while still in the USA.
- Many schools will have a notary public on staff to provide you with your certified degree document.
- Once you have this, you need to get an authentication from that state’s Secretary of State (get in touch with your school to figure out the best way to go about this).
- Next, you will need to authenticate the document at the U.S. Department of State Office of Authentications.
- The final step is to get authentication from the UAE Embassy, based in Washington D.C.
- If you are coming to Dubai with your spouse, remember to bring your marriage certificate – but be sure to attest it in the USA first, initially by the issuing officer followed by the state’s Secretary of State, then the U.S. Department of State Office of Authentications, followed by authentication from the UAE Embassy in Washington.
- An important piece of advice for anyone moving to Dubai is to bring as many passport-sized photos of yourself as you can! Everything from your visa, your driving licence, health insurance card, Emirates ID and may require several copies, so it’s better to have plenty in reserve to avoid running around trying to find a photo studio at the last minute.
Accommodation in Dubai
It is likely that your sponsoring company will provide you with temporary accommodation as soon as you move to Dubai, however, you will need to find a more permanent home relatively soon. Luckily, finding a home in Dubai is quite easy, with plentiful options (for both buy and rent) and numerous property types available, from cosy studio apartments right up to palatial villas. Although, depending on where in the US you hail from, you might find prices in some areas quite steep.
RENTING A PROPERTY IN DUBAI
Usually, American expats in Dubai will choose to rent a home when they first move to the city – in fact, the majority of expats in Dubai tend to rent. Depending on your list of requirements for a home (for example, pet-friendly, furnished, with a garden, close to Dubai Metro etc) there are various properties to choose from – the only limitation will be your budget! Living with Burj Khalifa views might sound appealing (and is sure to impress guests), but you may need compromise on that if you want to live in a peaceful suburb.
The way property rentals in Dubai normally work is that you will have to pay for the property up front, either in one or four (the most common) to six post-dated cheques. Employers will sometimes provide housing allowances or loans to meet the up front costs of this, but check first. You will also have to set money aside for your estate agent’s commission (5% of the total rent), security deposit (5% once again), DEWA (water and electricity) deposit, internet deposits, Ejari (that’s the registration of your tenancy contract and the tenant is liable for it) as well as any other moving costs that you may incur – as there are a lot of upfront payments, make sure you have enough money set aside. If not, keep in mind that loan prerequisites vary from bank to bank.
Buying a Property in Dubai
The Dubai property market often makes headlines across the world, with stunning projects that are true engineering marvels and top quality of developers with already delivered projects. In Dubai, foreign nationals can own apartments and villas in specially designated freehold areas in Dubai, Fancy a Dubai Marina penthouse? Or what about a villa in the popular Arabian Ranches? There are also several off-plan projects in the pipeline, many with upcoming handover dates, attractive payment plans and incentives. If buying a home in Dubai feels a bit too permanent, remember that you can always rent it out once you leave, making it a great source of additional income.
Living in Dubai as an American:
While Americans may form a relatively small percentage of the UAE’s population, the majority of expats from the US live in Dubai. And thanks to the cosmopolitan nature of the city, you are also sure to find familiar brands from home making living in Dubai as an American easy and convenient.
Education for American expats in Dubai
- There are plenty of American schools in Dubai attract students from across the world, offering a great multicultural educational experience for your child.
- The emirate’s schools offer curricula from all over the world, including IB and AP programmes.
- In terms of school fees in Dubai, this will depend on the curricula you opt for as well as the reputation of the school.
- No matter the curricula you choose though, the best schools in Dubai are often over-subscribed, with places filling up fast – no matter the year group. If you have a school-age child and are looking to move to Dubai, it will be a wise decision on your part to do your research and get in touch with your shortlisted schools well before the actual move.
- If you are interested in higher education, Dubai has many options – with some American institutions having branches here as well. Some of these include the Rochester Institute of Technology, Michigan State and Hult Business School. The American University Dubai (AUD) is another popular choice for American-style higher learning. If you are looking a little further afield, New York University has a campus in Abu Dhabi. Depending on your course of study and the institute you choose, you are also likely to be able to transfer your credits to the university’s home campus or affiliate school – or do a semester abroad.
- Without falling into the trap of labelling all American food as ‘burgers and fries’, Dubai has plenty of American restaurants that are loved not just by Americans but locals and expats too. You will find Shake Shack, The Cheesecake Factory and even a TGI Fridays…to name just a few, as well as the full gamut of American fast food chains. Several restaurants also offer New England style food and Dubai’s popular Nola serves up fare from New Orleans. If you want something different, you can eat your way around the world in the emirate, with cafes and restaurants serving up food from India, North Korea, South Africa, France and any country you can think of. No matter what food you want, you will find it in Dubai.
- If you’re looking for ingredients (or maybe even your favourite cereal from back home) you’re likely to find it in Dubai as well! Supermarkets such as Spinneys and Park n Shop stock international brands so don’t worry about missing that taste of home!
Out and About
- The nightlife and social scene in Dubai is the stuff of legend! There are countless clubs, bars and lounges across Dubai that offer up every type of vibe imaginable…! There are even a few familiar names like Nikki Beach and Trader Vic’s, should you get homesick for a home-style party.
- For live music fans, the city is a beloved concert venue for some of the best current and classical musicians and bands from around the world. Largely outdoors, the concert seasons kicks off in the cooler months and lasts until summer. Previous years have seen everyone from Justin Bieber to Aerosmith…in fact, the Backstreet Boys are heading this way in a few weeks!
- You don’t have to worry about missing events like the Superbowl or even the NBA. Several restaurants and bars will show the big games! When it comes to occasions such as Thanksgiving, Halloween and even the Fourth of July, there will be a special event on.
- If you would like to purchase alcohol at a bottle store in Dubai, you will need an alcohol licence. Available to all non-Muslims, simply head to an MMI or African + Eastern to pick up the required forms – you will require proof of address as well as a NOC from your sponsor before applying for one though! And keep in mind that while Dubai is a very tolerant city, there are heavy fines and penalties for public intoxication, so be sensible.
- Whoever is sponsoring your visa is required by law to provide you with medical insurance. If you are the sponsor (for example, of your spouse or children), the onus will be on you to make sure they are insured – although you can check with your company whether you can add them onto your plan.
- Dubai has world-class healthcare with doctors and other physicians from across the world – so you don’t have to worry about getting top quality care!
- Be careful when bringing medication to the UAE! The banned substances list issued by the UAE government will provide guidance on what you can and can’t bring into the country – while some medications may be brought in if you have a doctor’s note. Remember, this rule will also apply to medicines that may be sold over the counter in the US, but are regulated in Dubai.
- If you require medication for a chronic illness, don’t worry. Dubai has plenty of hospitals, clinics and specialist centres with fully qualified and experienced doctors who can write you prescriptions for the same medication in Dubai – just bear in mind that the trade name of the medicine may be different from what you’re used to!
- Dubai has a fantastic public transport network that includes buses, a Dubai Metro, Dubai tram and of course, taxis, all regulated by the RTA.
- It is worth keeping in mind, however, that despite the public transport system you may be some way away from the nearest metro station – although it is likely that there will be a regular feeder bus to the nearest one. For example, you will need to get alternative transport to the metro station from popular areas like Arabian Ranches, Mirdif and Motor City, however, there are plenty of flats for rent near metro stations if you need to rely on the metro to get around!
- If you hold a valid USA driving licence, you can easily transfer it to a UAE one for a small fee. All you need is an eye test certificate (head to any optician and tell them it’s for a driving license) and a NOC from your sponsor (this is a simple letter typed on company letterhead and stamped), copies of your passport and visa and passport photos. Visit a branch of the RTA, fill in the required application, have your photograph taken and you’re done! When you do drive in Dubai remember that the majority of light vehicles are automatic rather than manual.
- If you are driving around Dubai, you may find that the way roads are laid out may not be what you’re used to. While the highways are easy to navigate, individual communities are connected by smaller roads and streets that differ in terms of design – there is no consistent grid system.
Other helpful tips for living in Dubai as an American
- The UAE is a Muslim country and the call to prayer can be heard in most parts of the city. However, they are also tolerant of other religious sensibilities and you will be able to find churches, temples and more in the city.
- Dubai may be liberal but remember to always dress modestly! Nightclubs and bars are where you can get away with miniskirts and stilettos – but dressing like that in the mall may cause offence. Be sure to not engage in any overt public displays of affection either.
- If you and your boyfriend or girlfriend are looking to move to Dubai, remember that it is illegal for you to live with your partner of the opposite sex unless you are married to each other or are blood relations. This extends to flat shares and engaged couples as well.
- English is the most widely spoken language in Dubai, although you can’t go wrong by learning some basic Arabic!
- Yes, it is a desert, but the malls, supermarkets and cinemas can get quite cold due to air conditioning, so keep a light cardigan or pashmina handy.
- The Dirham is pegged to the US Dollar, so don’t worry about fluctuating exchange rates.
- Remember that you will still need to file your annual taxes back in the US.
- Life in Dubai sure is wonderful, but remember to keep an eye on the budget – it’s so easy to overspend and be unable to save a penny!
The Dubai lifestyle is one that is sure to be attractive to American expats – just ask anyone who lives here! And if you’re planning on making the move to Dubai from the USA, why not start by looking for houses for rent on Bayut.com
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Disclaimer: Visa rules are subject to change and can vary from company to company. To get up to date information on visa procedures and fees when moving to Dubai from US, please get in touch with your employer/sponsor.